Pursuing Happiness – An American View

Last night, my family went to the cinema to watch the Will Smith movie Pursuit of Happyness.  My 13 year old son said it was one of the best reality-style (non-animation) movies he has seen and really enjoyed the Hero Story plotline. For myself, it was a great movie in demonstrating the love of family and how motivation can overcome adversity.  And how happiness is something that has to be pursued, it is something that requires your own energy to make happen, you have to be open to happiness and do something for it wash over you.

WARNING – PLOTLINE OF MOVIE REVEALED BELOW 

But the other subtext of the movie reveals also the view that happiness is achieved through success/achievement and the attainment of money.  Many happiness surveys demonstrate the correlation between happiness and income but that this tops out once a comfortable subsistence level of wealth is obtained.  This movie sits right in the middle of the ER/orange (in Spiral Dynamics speak) level of materialist/achiever – the strive for improvement and goal-oriented planning – a level that dominates Hollywood and capitalism. 

Yet the next level beyond this in humanity’s never ending quest requires one to discover that material wealth does not bring happiness or peace.  The final part of the movie where Will Smith attains his reward and the text afterwards showing what happens to him in later life does not reveal this further development but shows that hard work, achieving your goals and close ties to family and God are the values and goals that society should value; I for one am less convinced (although it’s not a bad start). 

But then again, it was an American movie!

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One Response to Pursuing Happiness – An American View

  1. David Montgomery says:

    I haven’t seen the film but it would be really interesting to get the perspective of at least five different people from outside the USA on what they believe to be the root of happiness.

    I once heard a very good comment which went something like “you only know that you’re happy when you not.” This raises the question of whether we can really predict accurately what makes us happy or whether happiness is in fact relative and something that we have a tendency to embellish with time particularly when we are under periods of duress.

    Today we are bombarded with information and one form of happiness could be an escape or at least a few hours without such high-intensity data etc for our brains to process. However, many people seem to have forgotten how to relax as we have adjusted to being constantly on the go and marketeers have successfully persuaded us that if the experience is not quite what we want then there’s always something better.

    I am not sure what happiness will always look like but I am sure that laughter, warmth and kindness are usually contributory factors.

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